Here we are going to explore the manufacturing of Attars, called “aromatic jewels of India”
This is still carried out in copper stills called ‘Degs’ as was done centuries ago. These are all direct fire-heated stills and their capacities can range from 10 to 160 kilos of floral/ herbal materials. The lid of the still called ‘Sarpos’ is also made of copper having openings for connections to one or two receivers.
After filling the plant material in the still with the requisite amount of water, the lid is sealed with a mixture of cotton and clay. As can be observed, this is a water-distillation process. On warming the still, there is a considerable increase in pressure inside the still. To prevent the lid from blowing off, a leaf spring called the ‘Kamanf is used on top of the lid.
One of the peculiar features of attar distillation is that no separate condenser is used. The receiver called the ‘Bhapka’ acts as a condenser also. The unique odor of attars is obtained by condensing vapors into the base material, mainly sandalwood oil. I must mention that Kannauj is the largest consumer of sandalwood oil in the world, consuming in excess of 30 tons per annum. Sometimes a liquid paraffin is used for the manufacture of cheaper attars and flavors.